- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Don't expect to see local TV reporters such as Pat Collins or Will Thomas broadcasting from Baghdad when the war with Iraq begins. Most Washington-area television and radio stations will cover the conflict from home.
Two stations have sent reporters to the Middle East. ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) has Gail Pennybacker aboard the USNS Comfort, a Navy medical ship deployed to the Persian Gulf region, while all-news radio station WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM) has dispatched Chas. Henry to Qatar.
Stations in other cities have "embedded" reporters with the troops, but news directors in the Washington area say their money is better spent covering local war-related stories, such as protests, homeland security and military families coping on the homefront.
"When it comes to covering the war itself, we're going to get out of the way and let the network do its job," said Robert L. Long, vice president of news and operations for NBC affiliate WRC-TV (Channel 4).
Once war breaks, the television networks are expected to shift to wall-to-wall coverage for the first few days. Mr. Long and other news directors say they may limit themselves to early-morning and 11 p.m. newscasts during this period.
WJLA's sister cable network, NewsChannel 8, is expected to stick with local news programming.
"It's highly unlikely we are going to interrupt anything the network does [on WJLA], unless it's something astounding. If anything big happens locally, NewsChannel 8 is where you are likely to see it first," said Bill Lord, news chief for the two stations.
Once the wall-to-wall network coverage ends, WUSA-TV (Channel 9) is expected to dump the low-rated "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" at 7 weeknights for a half-hour newscast devoted to the war. Gordon Peterson will likely be the program's sole anchor.
In the beginning, it may seem like every newscast is devoted to the war, Mr. Long said. "This is the only story you're going to hear about for a while," he said.
Rudin sues WTTG
WTTG-TV (Channel 5) substitute weatherman Steve Rudin is suing his bosses, claiming they unfairly passed him over for a permanent gig forecasting on the station's new 5 p.m. newscast.
The lawsuit was filed March 4 in D.C. Superior Court. In the complaint, Mr. Rudin claims the station violated the D.C. Human Rights Act when it gave the 5 p.m. forecasting job to Gwen Tolbart, a black woman. Mr. Rudin is white.
The complaint asks the court to force WTTG to make Mr. Rudin a full-time forecaster on the 5 p.m. newscast, with back pay and benefits. It also seeks unspecified "general and special damages" and "punitive damages."
Mr. Rudin's attorney, James. M. Eisenmann, and WTTG managers declined comment.
Murrow winners named
The Radio-Television News Directors Association has given regional Edward R. Murrow Awards to news-and-talk station WMAL-AM (630), WTOP and WTTG for their coverage of last fall's sniper shootings.
In addition, WTOP won the Overall Excellence Award and a Best News Series honor for Chas. Henry's report on military air patrols over Washington. WMAL was honored for an April newscast that focused on the University of Maryland's victory in the NCAA men's national basketball championship.
WJLA's prime-time special on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks won the Best News Documentary award. The station's medical reporter, Kathy Fowler, was honored with Best News Series for her reports on the black market for human organs.
Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to [email protected]

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